Jason Bay on the shelf for the rest of the season, the New York Mets left fielder was not having a great year, to say the least. His respectable .259 average and completely respectable .347 OBP were OK but his .537 SLG in 2009 was offset by his considerably lower .402 mark in 2010. In 95 games and 401 plate appearances, Bay hit just six home runs and a .144 ISO. His four-year, $66MM deal with a vesting option for 2014 that could bring the total to $80MM over five years is not looking to good right now. And although 32 years old, theres actually little reason to fear for Bay for this upcoming 2011 season.
So yes, Bay's .259/.347/.537 line and .336 wOBA were way off the mark from his career .278/.374/.508 line and .380 wOBA. Most people are blaming the fact that he played in Citi Field but his home/road splits were not very good: a .111 ISO on the road and actually an above average .182 ISO at home. This shows that it was not Citi Field that drained his power but rather something having to do with Bay himself. And to dispel the notion that Citi Field is bad for homers: according to statcorner.com, home runs are depressed by a slim 6 points for right handed hitters, the stadium has a 94 park factor, 100 being average. (To put that number into context, Oakland Coliseum's park factor for right handed hitters is a mere 77, meaning that it depresses home run totals by a considerable margin.)
Looking deeper into Bay's statistics, his line drive, fly ball and ground ball percentages were right next to his career average:
So his 2009 season, obviously was great. But his 19.7% HR/FB rate was bound to come down to around his career average. Unfortunately, that number dropped too much. What is strange is that he has always had line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates have always been about average for the league and last year, as you can see, was essentially no different. The home run drought might have had to do with a change his approach. With that said, let's use hittrackeronline.com to take a look at where his home runs have landed, just as we did in the post that I wrote on Nick Markakis.
His career O-Swing% is a great 20.1%. In 2009, it was 20.1% and in 2008, it was 20.8%. He has had a great sense of the strike zone his whole career with a 12.4% BB rate. That walk rate and O-Swing% both got worse last year. His O-Swing% spiked a full seven percent to 27.1% and his walk rate dropped to his worst rate since 2007, 11%. He was pressing to live up to his contract and as a result, he tried too hard to hit home runs.
That is what happens sometimes with players when they sign hefty contracts. In Bay's first year of his four-year deal, he earned $8.6 million. Fangraphs's money-to-WAR ratio is about $5 million for one win. Bay had a 1.4 WAR and was worth a total of $5.6 million. The $3 million is not a terrible amount and the Mets could not have even bought a one-win-player, that is, going by this model. So Mets fans can't really get THAT mad with Bay's season.
In terms of a bounce back from Bay in 2011, I expect a nice one. He seemed to have gotten a combination of bad luck and thinking that there was a lot of pressure on him. Citi Field had very, very little to do with his home run total. Around 27 homers and about 25 doubles. His astonishing .327 career BABIP and .329 mark from 2010 suggest that his average should bounce back to around the .270-.280 range. He should be looking at a good bounce back season and will probably live up to his contract.
NOTE: Stay tuned for the first ever podcast from the Baseball Jungle! Expect it to come out sometime over the weekend. It will be posted to the blog.
(Statistics in courtesy of: hittrackeronline.com, http://statcorner.com, and fangraphs.com)